On Being Helpless, Becoming Empowered, and SurrenderingBy Susan Settle
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Inner Bonding facilitator Susan Settle shares with us her profound learning regarding her interactions with her adolescent son.
During the advanced intensive last fall I did some processing which really brought home the connection between feeling helpless and learning to surrender to Spirit. The topic at hand was my beloved son, who is navigating the rocky terrain of adolescence. He was experimenting with substances and living with friends in town. When I returned from a trip, I found him intensely anxious, angry, strung out, and physically shaky. In an attempt to get him stabilized and safe, I hired advocates, attorneys, doctors, therapists, and consultants. I lined up options to the public schools, spending hours and hours on the phone and internet, researching, evaluating, assessing, and planning. Trying to set clear, healthy boundaries, I withstood his pounding demands to bail him out of his debts and mistakes...and I tried to do this with a loving heart, so that he could still see himself in my eyes. Things were messy, though. Because of the state laws here in Massachusetts he had far more leeway than the average boy his age. After four months, when all my plans had been carefully set, I realized that I could not legally MAKE him choose the option which I felt would give him a safe, supportive environment.
In processing this with Margaret, I made some comment about all the suffering in the world. My intuitive inner ear heard this and asked me where it was that I was suffering and had not acknowledged it. At the time all I could see was how painful it was to watch him risk his life and health. I was using everything in my power - absolutely EVERYTHING - to get him stabilized, only to discover that he had far too much legal freedom for a confused seventeen year old. I was helpless over his choices. Now I realize that a good deal of my suffering was caused by the fact that, having turned his life over to Spirit, I essentially tried to take it back again with all my planning. And, in the process of focusing so extensively on my son, I largely abandoned myself. I also saw that a big chunk of that planning -busy, busy, busy!!- had been a way to avoid feeling the horror of my helplessness. I cannot make my adult son safe; only he can do that. My job is to keep myself safe. And in order to keep myself safe, I must be present to myself and connected to my spiritual Source.
Over the past four months I have stayed with all of this. Now I realize that accepting my helplessness, and surrendering my son to Spirit, was essential. Over and over again I had prayed for the highest good. Now, I told myself, you have to trust. Presented with opportunities to keep myself safe, I called 911. Setting limits on how he expressed his anger and frustration in my home empowered me. (In hindsight I also see that it modeled to him the importance of setting limits to keep himself safe.) My sense of suffering diminished as I stood firm on the rules for safety in the house. And as I shifted my focus away from him, he was free to feel the effects of his own risky, perilous behavior. "Let him feel his pain" said a wise friend. "That is how he will know to make changes in his life."
I can't say that I would wish to relive the past eight months. But I can say how grateful I am for what I have learned:
I am truly helpless over every one and every thing external to myself.
My power lies in the profound connection I have with myself and with Spirit, as I surrender my life and the lives of my loved ones to the highest good. Whenever I feel helpless, I need to reconnect and surrender.
Susan Settle is a certified Inner Bonding facilitator.
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Focus on anyone you are angry at. Let yourself voice your anger out loud but not at the person. Now turn it around and let your inner child say the same thing to you, listening with openness and compassion. Whoever you are angry at can become your teacher for becoming aware of how you may be abandoning yourself.
By Dr. Margaret Paul